WEST VANCOUVER — Ben Corbett’s third touchdown pass of the afternoon, a dandy of a delivery to receiver Ethan Johnston with just 16 seconds remaining, capped the home team’s second rally of the day and carried the host Highlanders past Parksville’s Ballenas Whalers.
West Vancouver, which will open Pacific Conference play this Friday against Nanaimo District, got a good dress rehearsal for the start of league, rallying from an early 14-0 deficit, and then a 20-16 deficit with under two minutes remaining.
“This was one of the most exciting games I have been a part of, and I couldn’t be more proud of our guys for stepping up, playing together and clawing out a win,” West Vancouver co-coach Pooya Dourandish. “Our offence was a treat to watch in the second half and defensively we bought into a real team mentality, with three or four guys in on every tackle.”
The contrast in styles was extreme.
Ballenas had three 100–yard-plus ground gainers and totalled over 400 yards by foot, while the Corbett and the West Van offence just kept passing the ball.
“West Van has a great passing game and we need to keep working on our positioning and reactions,” said Ballenas coach Dan Smith. “But overall, I’m happy with our competitiveness and how we never gave up. We just left too much time on the clock for their offence.”
Whalers’ quarterback Ben Robinson scored on runs of 25 and 26 yards for a 14-0 Whalers’ lead and Ballenas led 14-8 at halftime.
Robinson, off a sneak with just under two minutes remaining, put his team ahead 20-16, setting the stage for Johnston’s winning grab.
Corbett went 22-of-41 for 257 yards and three TDs, rallying from an early interception. Ben Welsh caught nine passes for 93 yards.
Defensively for West Vancouver, inside backers Ben Croasdale with nine tackles and Ryerson Wallace with eight, paced the defence. Welsh also had eight tackles.
For Ballenas, quarterback Robinson was one of three Whalers to rush for over 100 yards. Robinson carried 14 times for 180 yards, Kolby Jack 14 times for 112 yards and Logan Pepper 10 times for 108 yards.
Matt Giroux and Ethan Marquis had seven tackles apiece for the Whalers while Jack added six.
“On a day where we fell into a hole early on, our guys showed an incredible level of mental toughness and fought hard to get out of this one with a win,” added Dourandish. “I can not say enough about how proud that made us as a coaching staff.”
Double A Ballenas will prepare for its biggest rivalry game of the season when it hosts Nanaimo’s John Barsby Bulldogs in the annual Border Battle Friday
Article by Howard Tsumura
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